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Depression leads to 80 per cent of suicides according to the World Health Organisation. —Creative Commons
Depression leads to 80 per cent of suicides according to the World Health Organisation. —Creative Commons

It is 7:30 am. I reach out to turn off my alarm as the sun rays creep through my window. I have a quick breakfast and head outside for the university on foot.

As I walk, I spot a familiar face, Sara. We say ‘hi’ and she tells me that she has now applied for Optometry and may be joining my university soon. I congratulate her and walk on, thinking, wow, that's surprising – not that she applied for Optometry, but the fact that she even made it so far.

I was introduced to Sara many years ago, when I was completing an assignment for Psychology. Sara had told me that when she was young, she used to cut her wrists with a blade whenever she felt something wasn’t going her way. Her suicidal symptoms had appeared at the young age of 16.

When asked why she hadn't told her family or sought help, she said what most people would have said, “I didn’t want them to think I was crazy or losing my mind” – a response which is very common, because of the way society frowns upon depression or any other illness associated with the mind.

Also read: Suicide, and the warning signs we miss

The only reason that Sara was saved from the road to suicide was because a friend had spotted the scars on her wrist. It was her friend who notified a teacher, who also happened to be the school counsellor.

The school counsellor sat with her everyday until her suicidal thoughts disappeared. Self-surveys were used to monitor her progress, diaries were kept for recording her thoughts; she was able to speak about her problems knowing that her problems were not going to leave the room.

Why is it that we hesitate to extend a helping hand to individuals around us trapped in depression?

Is it because we feel we do not have the expertise?

Or have we become so numb that it is easier to turn a blind eye to issues like these rather than make an effort to fix them?

I’m assuming many students may have seen Sara’s condition but only one spoke up about it. It’s not uncommon to keep quiet. I did the same thing when I went to Pakistan.

When I visited Pakistan back in 2013, I met a girl, who was preparing for her Masters exam. I could tell that there was something wrong, but could not quite pinpoint exactly what. I think I may have kept quiet because I did not want to offend her.

Later, I learned that her mother was suffering from Hepatitis C, and this girl, being the only daughter, had the burden of looking after everything. There were times that she kept quiet, sad, lost in her own trail of thoughts, misunderstood, and then there were times that she became very angry and agitated.

She was not sad, she was depressed.

Even now, she doesn’t have the time to seek help or talk about her issues, and also resists accepting help from anyone, responding with anger towards her aunts and uncles.

Contrary to what most people think, the idea that 'someone who has everything should not be suffering from depression' is outright wrong. It is an illness and it attacks people irrespective of their materialistic possessions or achievements.

Also read: Suicide and depression: Can we snap out of snap judgements?

I know many people in Pakistan who live lavish lives but still seem to be suffering from depression. These individuals, when stressed, resort to over-the-counter medication. Most of them go beyond one tablet and prefer taking two or even three, in the hopes of completely forgetting about their ordeal.

Depression leads to 80 per cent of suicides according to World Health Organisation. Men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide as they fail to speak up, afraid of coming across as 'weak'.

We know of Robbin Williams, Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe and many others in a long list of famous people who suffered from depression. Recently, Deepika Padukone's public revelation added her name to that list.

Deepika disclosed that she had suffered from depression, as well as anxiety in the past year, and that she overcame her depression by speaking out to her aunt and then a psychologist. What was shocking was that after her recovery and upon her return from her break, her friend had committed suicide because she also happened to be suffering from depression and anxiety.

Also read: Why Deepika's fearless disclosure is important for South Asia

But then, we are all told depression is all in the mind, and we will get over it. Well, that is true to a certain extent. But of course, there is a difference between being sad and being depressed; one being a state of emotion and the other being long-term dissatisfaction.

Depression is actually a physiological condition caused by decreased levels of the chemical serotonin in our brains.

It may be 'in the mind' but it is certainly much more than a temporary conundrum – it is a disease, so let us talk about it like one.

Take the screening test for depression here.

Author Image

Lareb Azam Cheema is a Psychology (major) studying at University Of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

She is specialising in Child and Organisational Psychology, as well as Neuroscience.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (29) Closed

Syeda Ali Feb 23, 2015 05:15pm

Nice article. Please recommend some ways to counter depression & also list of some therapy centers. I wish there was some online platform to discuss & cure depression

KhalidS Feb 23, 2015 06:07pm

Rich people commit suicide because when they have achieved everything they could in their line of profession, and bought everything money could have bought, which includes drugs as well, so they seek the high in drugs and get overdosed and die. Poor people commit suicide because of society not coming out to help them with their problems (domestic, social, economic), which a large extent is not even their fault that they find themselves in such poverty, that blame goes to the governments.

Depression is an illness and should be treated by professionals.

junaid Feb 23, 2015 06:36pm

I used to do all that stuff but don't know how i crossed that evil of depression. May be sharing thoughts with my friends had held me. A few years back i cut my arm 25 time. However, i feel that i was a fool. If anyone is doing this kinda stuff for any reason, just see a psychologist. Your life is worthy for your family, friends and yourself. Don't ever give up. I was in F.Sc when i started all that stuff, ruined my career but then i kicked in and now masters in international law. So buddies the road of life is not always bumpy.

junaid Feb 23, 2015 06:37pm

@Syeda Ali Free Association and sharing unpleasant thoughts will help you.

Nimra Feb 23, 2015 07:21pm

You know when i think of modern psychology, it hurts to acknowledge that a lot is being said about drugs but very less about a human spirit, can you ignore your ROOH when you talk about psychology? Do you think drugs are the solution when a person is depressed because of a sin he committed or if he has got hurdles in life? what do you have to say about it?

Pari Zaad Feb 23, 2015 09:05pm

very nice article

Pari Zaad Feb 23, 2015 09:05pm

well done

Pari Zaad Feb 23, 2015 09:20pm

i think this should be noticed at all levels it is a serious problem of present age a epressed person can not even walk ahead in his life he always remain in his past and in depression

Pakiza Feb 23, 2015 09:22pm

did a great job

Pakiza Feb 23, 2015 09:25pm

i think it is the most important topic to discuss and to think over now a days

Pakiza Feb 23, 2015 09:29pm

i think it is the most imortant topic to discuss and to think over now a days

Nimra Feb 23, 2015 09:41pm

I was very depressed because of what i had gone through in my life and its only remembrance and zikr of ALLAH the almighty alone which makes us brave and confident to face our fears and stand upto them . I am a medical student myself and i know what drugs are and how they exert their effects but can they solve the underlying problem which is causing depression in the first place?

Nimra Feb 23, 2015 09:46pm

@Syeda Ali sure, talk to ALLAH, start accepting your fears and fight them, have complete faith in your potential and do remember, Allah is always with you.

Bea Feb 23, 2015 10:12pm

@junaid well done i hope you stay healthy and have lots of good friends to off load on to thats what they are their for.

gohar Feb 23, 2015 10:27pm

Very nice article indeed. looking forward to read more from you on this taboo.

Masood Akhtar Feb 24, 2015 06:36am

Great write up. Many people in Pakistan especially women in villages are suffering from severe to normal depression. The point is that they dont recognize it. Further we do not have enough trained psychiatrist to treat their symptoms. Most psychiatrist that we have even make the situation more worse. I know one lady of middle 50 years old who had a depression she was a teacher. She went to psychiatrist in Govt. hospital. She was administered Tofronil tablet. This made her even worse. She started forgetting everything. Even she would forget path of her home. Then she left it and went to a Hakim who treated her and she became normal. Can writer share her email this us please?

Aysha Feb 24, 2015 08:17am

@Nimra i think you didnt read the artical completely. "Depression is actually a physiological condition caused by decreased levels of the chemical serotonin in our brains" Its a MEDICAL condition and one needs medication to get better.

Syeda Ali Feb 24, 2015 09:35am

@junaid True that. But trusting someone when you are depressed is the biggest problem. There should be some online place where counseling could also be done. @ Nimra : Nothing helps better than this. But the problem causing depression should be answered properly.

Lareb Feb 24, 2015 09:54am

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Sami Feb 24, 2015 11:30am

@Nimra do catharsis!!

junaid Feb 24, 2015 02:37pm

@Bea Thanks mate for your wishes. Yes i am on track with the grace of GOD and help of friends. It was a difficult phase of my life. I can feel for those who are passing through it but advise them that they are worthy and this world need them. So never ever give up.

sarah Feb 24, 2015 04:11pm

In some cases ,the patient is not willing to accept that he is suffering from a treatable mental disorder. He keeps on blaming others for this condition,then indulges into self pity or revengeful thoughts.Especially,in Pakistan, depression is becoming common due to the on-going social problems and terrorism-related issues.Thus, a campaign should be launched to create awareness among people about how to cope with their own depression(medical and islamic remedies) and how to convince patients to consult a psychologist when they feel helpless.I have often noticed people self-talking while roaming around in streets and elsewhere. A common man finds him helpless in the given scenario of stressful circumstances.

Depressed Housewife Feb 24, 2015 11:24pm

@sarah I totally agree with u, the same is my situation I really don't know how to cope up with all this. Being in this conservative society I even can't speak up with anyone, I have become over sensitive which is ultimate badly effecting my career my husband my kids. Somebody please help me.

junaid Feb 25, 2015 09:44am

@Depressed Housewife , lareeb has given her tweeter account you may follow her. Don't stick with unpleasant thoughts like why this and why that. Understand the worth of relations you are effecting and find someone to share your thoughts. If you live in pindi or isb, see doctor Fareed Minhas at Motarhma Benazir Bhutto Hospital. Stay blessed.

Hasan Mar 01, 2015 06:43pm

@KhalidS The rich and poor both commit suicide for the same reason ! Short sightedness.. A rich man focuses on money and neglects the relationships and people, in the end finding wealth unable to replace the relationships he destroyed.. A poor man never takes charge nor responsibility; extends his spending and family far more than he could have ever afforded and never changes his ways never tries to save, move, earn more or exercise family planning .. both cant see the reality in front of them.. First is the victim of confused priorities and the other a case of frozen mindsets..

PerMan Oct 15, 2016 12:21pm

@KhalidS I disagree with that hypotheses. Why do you think that all rich people are bad and all poor people are good? Depression being a state of mind can afflict anyone. Its like happiness, even a poor person can be happy and a rich person can be sad because of their own ambition, needs, state of affairs etc.

Jawed Mirza Oct 15, 2016 04:44pm

Lareb your article both informative and eye opening here back in Pakistan depression is not recognized as an ailment even though more than 50% adults have it leads to criminal activities ,killings and GOD knows what .........I wish you a pleasant future with your studies ,,,,,,do keep on writing

Agha Ata Oct 15, 2016 08:02pm

I thought depression attacks a particular type of people in particular circumstances, and I thought it was usually caused by the conditions in the outer world rather than within one's own body. And then maybe it becomes a proper disease. But a lot depends on one's attitude and life style.

Sami Oct 15, 2016 08:28pm

i am depressed, life is going nowhere :(